Wind turbines can come in all sizes, from small home use systems to large offshore turbines. They can be a stand alone unit or in groups of one hundred or more as part of a wind farm. When it comes to installation and maintenance of the larger systems, specially trained personnel and tools are required. One new tool that is quickly coming to the forefront is the video enabled drone.
Remote Maintenance Opportunities
Typically, the average lifespan of a wind turbine is 20 years – that is if proper care and maintenance are performed. Exposure to the elements can cause the wear and tear of these turbines blades, reducing their lifespan and requiring owners to have them repaired or replaced.
Companies like Vestas, based in Denmark, have started to investigate the use of the latest in drone technology or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to inspect and coordinate both installation and maintenance of wind turbine systems.
In the construction of one such wind farm using their V112 3.3 MW turbines, Vestas employed the services of SEES Media to film the construction process with the help of a drone. The drone was able to document the construction of the main rotor shaft and electrical generator, located on top of the turbine.
Filming a 140 meters high turbine tower in a short time span comes with its own set of obstacles such as the access by a helicopter, cost , wind speed and rain. With the help of modern drones, engineers are able to inspect and analyze the quality of the construction, as well as any possible damage or flaws that a turbine may have once it has been running for a period of time.
Today, drones are becoming essential for the upkeep of expensive outdoor equipment installations not only wind turbines. Solar panels and collectors can benefit from a small video enabled drone with the capacity to provide images of conditions with very little risk of personal injury.
Bringing about benefits to the quality and maintenance of wind turbines, drones can increase the safety of inspection staff, discover hard to detect damages such as cracks and foreign objects, discover possible structural weaknesses, and most importantly, the wind turbines do not have to be shut down upon inspection.
Developers of drone systems are seeing new applications for their use with renewable energy technology.
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.